New book, division for Swiss Colony

Monroe, WI-based Swiss Colony is expanding with two new initiatives. The $500 million-plus multititle mailer in February launched a direct selling arm, Swiss Colony Occasions. And in the fall it will introduce Durdy Looks, offering clothes for young adults.

Swiss Colony began studying and testing the home-party market about two years ago. “We see this move as a natural extension of our food and gift catalogs,” says company president John Bauman.

The Occasions business runs on the Tupperware model, in which salespeople — or “face-to-face consultants,” as Bauman calls them — encourage people to throw parties where they can sell their wares. The consultants work on commission; the party hosts can receive free and discounted products.

Swiss Colony has so far hired just two new full-time people for Occasions, a senior vice president of sales and a director of sales. But already 150 salespeople have signed on.

About half of the 200 items available in the 24-page Occasions catalog used by the independent salespeople are food; the rest are primarily service bowls and decorative items. Swiss Colony has in fact grown its sales during the past few years by focusing less on its seasonal food books (Swiss Colony, The Tender Filet) and more on apparel (Monroe & Main, Midnight Velvet), home decor (Through the Country Door), and general merchandise (Ginny’s, Seventh Avenue). Nonfood titles now account for nearly 80% of its overall revenue.

The company is also trying to appeal to younger consumers. Its newest catalog, Room for Color, which launched in February, sells more-contemporary home furnishings than Through the Country Door; the latter caters to middle-aged, middle-income women.

This strategy continues with the fall launch of Durdy Looks. About 200,000 copies of the 60-page Durdy Looks are scheduled to mail in September. “A large portion of that mailing will go to outside lists,” Bauman says. The book will target middle- to upper-income adults.

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